Last week, Wal-Mart’s membership-required Sam’s Club added a new option for customers who don’t mind paying an annual fee to buy discounted items such as bulk toilet paper, backyard patio furniture and family sized cereal boxes — travel.
Sam’s Club launched an online portal on its website called Sam’s Club Travel, which can be viewed only by members. I heard about it when I stumbled upon an article on the Motley Fool site site. Being a member of rival Costco, it made me wonder how Sam’s Club offerings would compare to other online rivals – and Costco’s.
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Expect generally less-expensive offerings than Costco, and a smaller number of options than big online travel agencies (OTAs), the Motley Fool article says. The company’s release says that SamsClub.com/travel site contains some 90,000 hotels and more than 6,000 attractions in 800 cities, in addition to cruise and air packages.
“By offering a curated selection to people who get overwhelmed by Expedia and Orbitz, but at lower price points than Costco, Sam’s seems poised to court travelers who are careful with both their browsing time and their money,” the article said.
A few interesting tidbits about Sam’s Club Travel:
- The site incorporates TripAdvisor reviews so members don’t have to go elsewhere to read consumer reviews and potentially make a purchase there, the company’s press release says.
- Loyalty rewards program: Members earn one loyalty point for each dollar spent on most products including flights, hotels and cruises, the article says.
- Hotel-only and flight-only options: The Motley Fool article points out that the Sam’s Club portal is similar to Expedia, Orbitz and other giant online travel agencies (OTAs).
- Interestingly, the site makes vacation rentals available “similar to HomeAway,” the article says.
The site promises to save members money on travel, helping to justify the Sam’s Club membership fee.
But Dallas-based marketing instructor Lin Humphrey says they’ll have to look beyond discounted travel prices to lure customers. Why?
“Many suppliers, namely cruise lines, have a level playing field policy on pricing,” Humphrey wrote during a broad Facebook conversation. “They can’t offer prices below market rate. They will have to find other ways to add value.”
Offering discounted travel likely won’t be a big enough lure to non-members to join, if the Facebook conversation is any indication.
Very frequent traveler Michael Centanni of Washington, D.C. wrote: “Not something I’d be interested in. Plenty of options exist currently. One more membership and one more password to remember.”
Readers: If you have ever purchased travel through Costco, or think you might from Sam’s Club, tell us about it.